Cecilia MacLeod

Dr Cecilia MacLeod BA, MS, PhD, FRSC, CCHEM, CSCI

Senior Lecturer

A visiting Lecturer since 2016, Cecilia re-joined the University as a fulltime member of staff in April 2018 having left the university in 2003 to go into environmental consulting.

Dr MacLeod started her career as a geologist in Reservoir Engineering at the Arco Oil and Gas research facility in Plano Texas.  She later left the oil industry and into the environment. Prior to moving to the UK, she was employed as a hydrologist with US Geological Survey for 5 years. Projects included: effect of land use on ground water quality, non-point source contamination of a shallow unconfined aquifer (Hg, radon and nitrates), TCE contamination in a deep aquifer, and treatment of hydrocarbon contamination using air sparging. Since coming to the UK, Dr MacLeod has been involved in a number of research projects dealing with contamination and remediation issues at Imperial College and then the University of Greenwich. At Imperial College, Dr MacLeod worked on several surface water projects, the first investigating the bioavailability of mercury in contaminated sediments from the River Yare, Norfolk. The second project area dealt with managed coastal re-alignment and impact on water and sediment quality in the Blackwater Estuary, Essex. When first at the University of Greenwich (1997-2003), Dr MacLeod was involved in obtaining funding to set up the Centre for Contaminated Land Remediation and continued her research on anthropogenic impacts on water quality. She made use of the university owned Astra Fireworks site in the Dartford Marshes to teach students how to assess land quality and for conducting a field trial on cement stabilisation / solidification of contaminated soil.

At Arcadis, she and her team developed an innovative in situ approach to treating highly reactive carbon disulphide. Following on from successful bench testing and field pilot testing a full scale remediation program valued at £7.8 million was completed and won the Brownfield Briefing Award for Best In-Situ Treatment in 2011.

Joining WYG as a Director in 2012, Dr MacLeod worked on projects including reviewing the risks associated with chromium contamination at the Haulbowline Landfill site in the Republic of Ireland where she participated in public consultations, meetings with the Department of Environment and a public hearing on the remediation strategy. Cecilia assessed the minimum requirements for a barrier to prevent coastal erosion of the waste into Cork Harbour and worked with the remediation design consultant to evaluate options for reducing permeability.

In 2013, Cecilia provided assistance to an EU Tempus project run out of the University of Greenwich to develop a new MSc course in Environmental Chemistry. She developed a week long module of contaminated land covering legislation, site investigation and risk assessment modelling which she delivered to the faculty of 5 universities and held 2 workshops.Over the years she has developed and delivered a number of training courses to aid in developing best practice in the construction industry in the areas of geo environmental consulting and contracting. The most recent of these is an Asbestos in Soils Awareness training course to aid employers in meeting their requirements under CAR2012 for which she has obtained UKATA approval.

Responsibilities within the university

Programme Leader MSc Water Waste and Environmental Engineering


2011 Brownfield Briefing Remediation Award, for Best In-Situ Treatment for Remediation of Carbon Disulphide on a former industrial estate.

2010 Arcadis Imagine Competition 3rd Place : Funnel in Gates project.

2004 Royal Society of Wildlife Trusts, Biffaward Awards 2004, Highly Commended - CIRIA for 'Implementation of Remedial Options for Contaminated Land - Training Material'.

1979 Florida Section American Institute of Mining Engineers, Student Paper Contest, First Place paper entitled 'Biomagnification of REE in aquatic plants growing in phosphate settling ponds.'



UKATA Tutor : CAT3 Asbestos Awareness, Asbestos in Soils Awareness

Chair : Steering Committee for CIRIA RP1037 Contaminated Sediments: a guide for risk assessment and management.


ASTM Committee E50 on Environmental Assessment, Risk Management and Corrective Action : Member

ASTM Committee D18 on Soil and Rock : Member

ASTM Committee D34 on Waste Management : Member

CIRIA : Local Authority Contaminated Land group : Trainer

CLAIRE : Remediation Training Courses: Chemical Oxidation : Trainer

Arcadis-Global Human Health Steering Group 2005-2012 : Member

European Triad CoP Group : Member

Steering Committee CIRIA RP711 Ground Gas Risk Assessment : Member

Research / Scholarly interests

My research interests are in the behaviour of contaminants in the environment and the development of tools to assess and reduce risks to human health and ground water / surface water systems posed by these contaminants. I am not tied to any particular remedial technology, rather may interest lies in the appropriate technology for contaminants to be treated and the cost-effectiveness / sustainability of the treatment method whether it is an engineered cap and barrier system to prevent movement of Cr+6 at Haulbowline, use of sodium persulphate to chemically oxidise carbon disulphide at Wolverhampton, reduction of PFOS in groundwater at Guernsey using activated carbon or locking up heavy metals in contaminated soil using stabilisation / solidification.

I am interested in the long term effectiveness of S/S and am planning to revisit the site we first trialled 20 years ago to assess effectiveness and integrity of the treated material. This information will be an important contribution to the use of S/S in the UK.

I am currently working on several project with collaborators in consultancy:

  • Assessment of perfluorinated compounds in UK drinking water to evaluate the effectiveness of treatment of public water supplies.
  • Treatment of dissolved phase hydrocarbons in interceptor discharge.
  • Evaluation of methods for remediation of asbestos in soils.

Key funded projects

Having been outside of academia for 15 years, my work has largely been funded by Clients focussed on solving their particular problems. I provide a project below for which most of the information is in the public domain.

Risk Assessment and Remediation Strategy for the East Tip, Haulbowline Island, Cork, Ireland

The study involved the assessment of contamination of 'sediment' and ground water in an area of land formed by the historic disposal of waste slag from the steel making process onto a spit off the eastern side of Haulbowline Island in Cork Harbour. Haulbowline was the site of the former Irish Steel plant which operated between 1939 and 2001. Following closure the Department of Environment appointed Cork County Council to oversee the regularisation of the tipped waste. A series of investigations were undertaken between 2008 and 2012 followed by Human Health and Controlled Waters Risk Assessments. The project involved assessment of leaching by sea water under alternating wet and dry conditions and use of geochemical modelling to assess impact of capping and isolation on the redox chemistry of chromium and manganese. As the site is essentially slag resting on the seabed, ground water is harbour water with infiltrated rainwater and flow is tidal thus a bespoke dilution model was developed to assess impact of contaminants leaching from the waste on harbour waters up to 50m from shore. The model was then used to determine the optimum permeability for use in the design and construction of a semi-permeable barrier curtain the reduce leaching from the waste into the sea. An impermeable barrier was proposed to form the part of the engineered cover system to prevent infiltration of precipitation into the underlying groundwater.